Mercer Marsh Benefits Leader, Vietnam
Vietnam’s medical trend rate is expected to increase 10% in 2022, similar to the Asia average according to the latest Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) Health Trends report. One major effect of the pandemic in Vietnam is the mindset shift towards preventive care, both for physical and mental health. Employees are now more aware of the need to avoid falling ill, especially considering the extent that infectious diseases such as COVID-19 can impact their own and dependents’ health and wellbeing.
During the period of pandemic-related restrictions, programs that cater to employees’ individual needs such as on-site medical consultation for workers, COVID-19 support hotlines, regular online mental health sessions and wellness activities have also demonstrated their ability to strengthen the culture of care in organisations.
With these promising developments, the opportunity for businesses is clear when it comes to creating and communicating an employee health program that addresses the full and personalised health and wellbeing needs of employees. Taking advantage of this opportunity can not only result in a healthier, more productive workforce that facilitate attracting and retaining talent, but also lower the employee benefit cost curve over the long-term and place the business in a stronger position to secure better insurance placements.
In the midst of a rising medical trend rate, employers should remain mindful of global supply chain shortages, increases in transport and fuel costs, and an elevated level of inflation worldwide — factors that will likely keep health premium rates elevated.
Given these considerations, it is vital for renewal conversations with insurers to depart from only negotiating on cost savings and better placements. As can be seen from employers’ preventive care initiatives, the shifts resulting from the pandemic has opened up opportunities for businesses to rethink their approach towards employee health and wellness.
In response to the pandemic, we see that clinics and hospitals across public and private sectors have been facilitating telemedicine consultations through various channels and platforms such as apps, voice and video calls. However, despite digital health services becoming increasingly commonplace, telemedicine claims are not yet covered by most companies’ health insurance policies, which still require medical services to be provided on-site.
That being said, we are observing that health insurers in Vietnam are responding more favourably to clients that take proactive steps in adopting preventive measures to manage their employees’ health risks. Specifically, insurers are starting to extend telehealth coverage and pandemic-specific protections to clients with good loss-performance ratios. The key to achieving this confidence from insurers, and thus securing competitive premiums and coverage wordings, lies with developing a culture of care for employees through a total health approach.
To help our clients develop an effective culture of care, MMB Vietnam leverages our data analytics capabilities to help employers ‘deep dive’ into their business’s needs and determine the effectiveness of their health insurance programs. Often, we find gaps or areas of improvement, and subsequently help implement top-up programs and assist our clients with the optimisation process.
Addressing preventive healthcare, we perform health risk assessments to determine a suitable program, such as a full-year exercise plan for employees alongside consistent medical advisory by doctors.
A key part of the process is bringing together relevant partners from our medical network or relevant local partners who can provide the specific and unique services that each business requires, regardless of its industry and size. Solutions include our digital claims management solution, the Darwin employee benefits platform, and the setting up of a flexible spending account for each employee.
Many employers will find it challenging to develop a total health program, but this process can be made easier and streamlined by partnering with a trusted advisor. Your advisor can additionally help strategise and execute an internal communications plan, which is needed to effectively convey how your organisation is creating a culture of care.
By curating and adopting the preventive, treatment and post-treatment care solutions — including telemedicine and mental health — that employees want and can benefit from, employers in Vietnam can build and attract a healthier, more productive workforce and maximises their potential, and emerge from the pandemic with a valuable competitive advantage over their counterparts.
Mercer Marsh Benefits Leader, Vietnam